Interactive Science Encyclopaedia. Age 11-14. CD-Rom for MacPC from Andromeda Interactive, 11-15 The Vineyard, Abingdon, Oxford OX14 3PX.Tel: 01235 529595 Fax: 01235 559122. pound;39.95 (includes VAT).
In this CD-Rom encyclopaedia-saturated world, you wonder why anyone should need another. It is only when you do hands-on shopping that you'll find plenty of all-subject examples, and little that covers science at the 11 to 14 age group.
This exceptional example of the genre tells you everything you need to know and just a bit more. It is also well written and looks cheerful, and rather than just deliver "science as fact", it offers a range of things to do and on-screen experiments, as well as leaving you with those questions that most scientists have built into their brains.
As you might expect the book contains photographs, articles and animations about science. A look at earth science, for example, has some nice surprises: the animations showing planet orbits, launching satellites, phases of the moon and tides would make useful demonstrations if they were put on a bigger screen.
You access the 3,000 articles (that's about a tenth of what you find in an all-subject CD-Rom) in several ways. You can pick them up from a timeline with interesting events (first test-tube baby, airbags invented, man on moon), or by working through a branching, topic tree - a good approach in fact. You can search, not just by keywords but in natural language, too. For example, typing in "what is momentum", "what is the greenhouse effect", "how do enzymes work" generates a list of articles.
Pupils can print as well as copy these to a notepad. Some 150 activities describe experiments you can do "at home". A small number of these are "live" on screen in that you classify animals, test the pH of liquids, do Hooke's spring experiment, or see how atoms move as you heat them. They're not all brilliant, but there are enough to like.
For some the bubble will burst on hearing an American voice, seeing American spellings or maybe just the American mix of topics. And while Microsoft's UK tour de force Encarta encyclopedia out-does this for depth, the reading level on Interactive Science Encyclopaedia makes it worth considering for younger groups.
Roger Frost is the author of 'Software for Teaching Science'